Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
It's blank parchment. The days ahead have no written history. We don't know what's coming, and that's why it makes a lot of sense to allow God to order our steps in the uncertain weeks and months to come. On today's broadcast, Erwin Lutzer will help us do just that. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, help us shine a lamp on the road ahead. Well, first of all, Dave, of course, I want to wish a very blessed New Year to all who are listening.
And you're absolutely right. What we need is a lamp as we go into the new year. And that reminds me of a poem that was quoted by George VI in 1939 before the war. He said, And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way. To all who are listening, let us enter this new year with our hands in the hand of God. Of course, if you're already a believer, we are in God's hands. But we have to acknowledge that and tread out into the unknown with a sense of faith.
And now let us listen to God's word, because after all, it is the guide, it is the light by which we enter the unknown. Our daughter, Lisa, has sent applications to a number of universities and schools, and she's being accepted by them. What's confusing to her is she does not know which one she should attend.
It has to do with this thing that we call God's will. The easier, you know, if you sent in three applications and were only accepted in one school. But when you've got three or four or five, then it becomes more difficult. Some of you don't know whether or not you should get married and you've been in a relationship and sometimes it's on, sometimes it's off. And that's very normal. It's only as proof that you're very human.
Problem is yours has been going on for seven years. And it's about time that you made up your mind, I would suggest. But you don't know God's will, right? You're given a job offer and it seems reasonable enough and it's in the south where it's warmer and you'd like to go and you've got some relatives that live in the north.
That's another reason why you think that it might be nice to go to the south. But you're not sure about God's will. You may have illness and you don't know what kind of medical treatment to have. After all, we have so many options and you don't know what is God's will. This elusive thing that we keep calling the will of God. Don't you wish that at the beginning of every year, God would send us a day timer with every day laid out.
You simply go through it and you flip through it and you know day after day what it is you're supposed to do and it would be even better if every single appointment and every single decision that you have ever been asked to participate in would already be written out and then you could just do it. Be easier. But you know, I think that God even has something better than that, though it does require some faith. But oh, how we wish that he would just come down from heaven and say, this is the will of God. Well, we're going to talk about that will today. And I want to begin with five presuppositions that are going to govern everything that I have to say.
Five presuppositions, five underlying truths that will support everything else. Number one, God is willing to guide us. God is willing to guide us. He really is willing to guide us. I know that that's hard to accept because we've all been in situations in which it is as if God has folded his hands in heaven and says, you've got four options. I dare you to choose the right one.
I just dare you. And so what we'd like to do is to read his diary and get out a magnifying glass and see what the fine print has to say. And we'd like to peer into the mysterious hidden resources and recesses of the almighty's mind. But the will of God is a mystery that is wrapped in an enigma, we say to ourselves.
And now we're supposed to find it easier to find a needle in a haystack. Well, I want you to know today that God is willing to guide you. God is willing to guide you. He's not playing hide and seek. He's not trying to play hard to get. He's not trying to, he does not delight in our confusion. It was Archbishop Trench who said that regarding prayer, he says, prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying a hold of God's highest willingness. So get over this idea that God is reluctant to guide. He is not reluctant to guide you.
Second presupposition is that God is able to guide you. So he'd be one thing if he'd be willing, but then he'd be incapable of doing it. God has so many different ways that he can guide us that it's just unbelievable. He can close a door. He can open a door. He can give you peace. He can give you unrest. He can lead you to people who give you ideas and people who can give you wisdom.
And he can, he can work out all these things according to the counsel of his own will. In my experience, I've often been guided by God, though I have been totally unconscious of it. I've been guided specifically by God when I haven't even prayed for guidance. I was just doing what you're supposed to do and you're guided by God.
Because most of the will of God is that clear. Some of you have heard this story before, but I should tell it at least every five years. A year before I became the pastor of Moody Church, which now is 17 years ago, I was coming here and dropped my family off.
We had never attended here before. And you know the story of how that man, I can still see him today with his hand in his pocket. It was clear to me he was getting his keys out and then he was walking across the street and I waited for him to get a parking space. And he drove out and I backed in.
Have you ever had the difficulty of finding a parking space not around Moody Church? Have you? Don't you know that that's the will of God? Why don't you rejoice when that happens? You say, this is God. This is proof that he wants me here.
We usually think the opposite, don't we? But anyway, then I came in and Pastor Wiersbe saw me in the lobby as I was trying to find my wife and kids because we had never been here before. And he said, I'm sick.
I'm on my way home. Will you preach for me this morning? And I preached that morning and I've been preaching here almost every morning ever since. That was a very important piece in God's leadership and guidance. But I was unconscious of being guided.
I was just doing like everybody does, looking for a parking place. But God said, I'm going to guide you. My life has had those kinds of I spies and yours has too.
My situation is not unique. You can look back and you can say, yes, God was there, though I didn't know it. I sometimes it felt like Jacob. I was in the presence of the Lord and didn't know it. That's a second presupposition. God has many different ways to guide us.
He is capable of it. Third, God's priority isn't, first of all, our happiness. Our happiness isn't his first priority.
What he's interested in is what is best for us and not necessarily what makes us the happiest. Now, there's another way in which we could say that certainly there is no place to be as happy as within the will of God. But what I'm trying to say is that sometimes the will of God is very difficult. Sometimes the will of God involves suffering.
Sometimes it involves death. You think of the martyrs over there in first century Rome or in this century and you find out that the will of God for them was to die young. One day Jesus said to the disciples, he said, I want you to get into this boat and I want you to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Were they in the will of God?
Were they in the will of God? Wouldn't you like to have that kind of guidance? Jesus talking to you and saying, get in that boat and go across this sea.
Couldn't get any clearer than that. Finally, you've got the guidance that you've always been looking for. It's the daytime or right and right smack in the middle of the will of God in obedience to Christ, they encounter the greatest storm that they've ever experienced. I want you to know today that just because you are having difficulties does not mean that you are outside of the will of God. Just because you have a job you don't like doesn't mean that that isn't God's place for you.
Moses had a job he didn't like for 40 years and it was God's place for him. Just because you're struggling in your marriage, that doesn't mean you married the wrong one. You see, sometimes in the will of God there are difficulties. So it's not always easy. It's not always easy. Presupposition number four is a little more difficult to accept and that is that ordinarily, ordinarily God does not show us his will until we're willing to do it.
That's the catch. Ordinarily, God does not show us his will until we're willing to do it. You see, most of us look at the will of God this way. We say, well God, so you have a will. Fine, tell me what it is and then I'll decide whether or not I'm going to do it. We do it a little bit like we do it on a job search. If you have a number of different options, you know, what you want to know is what the salary is.
You want to know what the benefits are. You want to know what perks come along with it and then you negotiate a little bit and you encircle some of this and say, I'd like to have this changed and this changed and then they give you a final offer and you write back and say, I don't think yet I've had your best offer and that's why we wish God would do it. Lord, show me your will and if I like it, I'll do it. And God says, no. What you have to do is to do this a little differently. You agree to do whatever I'm going to show you.
You sign on the dotted line and then you let me fill it in and that's the difficulty with us. We don't like to do it that way, but ordinarily God does not show us his will until we are willing to do it. He doesn't guide us unless we are willing to be guided first. And finally, the will of God is a lot clearer than most of us think. We think that it is this mystery wrapped in an enigma, but actually so much of the will of God is clear. It's only sometimes there are some big decisions true where we wrestle with, but most of life is very clear. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about God's will and a lot of things are clearer than we would like to believe.
It's just that we struggle with giving up control of our lives. That's the problem, but there's so much that is clear. In fact, by the time this message is over, you'll know exactly what to do.
Exactly. You won't be able to leave here today and say, well, you know, he preached, but he didn't tell us what to do. Today you're going to find out exactly what to do and I don't want anybody coming up to me afterwards and saying, you know, it was a nice message, but I don't know what to do. No, if this was a nice message, then you know exactly what you're supposed to do.
All that you need to do is to get on with it. That's the agreement. So you hang in for the next 15 or 20 minutes. The passage of scripture that we're going to look at is Matthew chapter 7 verse 7. Jesus is in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount and someday I'm going to preach a message entitled the Sermon on the Mount.
That's before we have an offering. But this is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is in the middle of it and he says these words and he's talking about prayer, but certainly this includes guidance. Isn't that what a lot of our prayers are all about is guidance. Christ says, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be open unto you for everyone that asketh receiveth and he that seeketh findeth and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. It's very clear what Jesus says. First of all is he says, I want you always to learn to ask you ask.
So those of you are confused with God's will because you don't know what to do. I begin by asking you, have you asked? Now you have to ask with the right motive because you just can't ask for anything. You can't be like a schoolboy who was heard praying after an exam and he kept mumbling Tokyo, Tokyo and somebody said, what are you praying about?
And he said, I'm praying that God will make Tokyo the capital of France. You know, God doesn't answer all of our prayers, even if they are absurd or silly or, or just plain selfish. James says ye ask and ye receive not because ye ask amiss that it might be consumed upon your own lusts. So you ask, but you ask for wisdom, you ask for guidance, you ask for all those things that will make you holy.
That's what you ask for. And you ask for guidance. Now in the old testament, David and Saul had a lot of interaction, many differences between David and Saul. It's a whole message actually on how they handled crises in their lives. But one of the things about David is whenever he came across an important decision, it says David inquired of the Lord. Yesterday I took a concordance and I looked up the meaning of the word inquired, discovered that sometimes it is spelled with an I and sometimes with an E. But David inquired of the Lord. David said, Lord, shall I go to battle against the Philistines? And the Lord said yes. And then some of his advisors tried to talk him out of it. And so it says that he inquired of the Lord a second time.
He just wanted to get it straight. Now in those days, God spoke to David directly. You see, David actually heard words. So that was a little different because God doesn't do it that way today because he has already given us enough of the word. But the point is that David kept asking and Saul, on the other hand, it only says once that Saul inquired of the Lord and the Lord did not hear him because you see Saul was living in disobedience. He was into his own agenda. He wanted God now to come along and to help him in his own rebellion and God didn't hear him. So interestingly, the very next verse says that he went then and he inquired of the sorceress. You remember he went to this witch at Endor.
And I thought yesterday as I was looking at that, that that's a lot of reason why many people are into the New Age movement today. That's why so many people read the horror, horror scopes. It's because they pray to God and they think, well, you know, God isn't listening. God does not hear them.
That's true. They are not coming to God in the name of Christ. They are not coming to God on their own terms. And so God is silent and the heavens are silent.
And so they turn to all of these other occult forms of guidance, which God incidentally abhors. Well, what does it say? It says, ask. Why is it that we don't ask?
Two reasons. Number one, we think in advance that we know what the will of God is. I've often thought that. I just thought, well, this is the will of God. This seems like a reasonable decision.
And it turned out that it was quite unreasonable. The other thing and I think that now we're getting to the heart of the matter is the reason that we often do not ask is because we fear, we fear that God is going to actually give us an answer that does not agree with what we really want to do. We would rather not ask. What's the most important decision that you could ever make in life? It is whether or not you become a Christian. What is the second most important decision? It is whom you marry.
That's the second most important decision. Now, it's interesting that in the process of time when you do some marriage counseling and you try to help couples solve their problems, I sometimes ask them a question which you can't ask unless you ask in the right way, unless you built a relationship and unless you have really gotten close to the situation because you don't want to just ask a question like this. But I've sometimes asked people later on in reflection, did you really pray about your decision? Did you ask and give God a good, sane, decent chance to break you up? See, unless you do that, you're not really asking. You're only pretending to ask.
Here are some of the answers as I remember them. No, we didn't. I felt uneasy about it, but I had invested so much in the relationship, I couldn't back out. Here's somebody else. No, I didn't ask because I assumed that because she was a Christian, it would work out all right.
And then here's the real winner here. Yes, I did ask. I didn't have peace about the decision, but I prayed until I did. I want to tell you something today. Peace is only one part of the puzzle of the will of God. And if you really want to do something and you're determined to it, you can pray yourself into peace. Even the devil will give it to you if you want it bad enough. I've seen people do some very foolish things because they had peace about it. They have disregarded some good counsel and they've thrown it all out and they said, well, I have peace.
Watch that piece because it's only one piece of the puzzle. Well, my friend, that's some good advice as we enter the brand new year. And as you think of the new year, always remember it is important for us to get our bearings, so to speak. It's a time when we regroup.
It's a time when we focus on that which is most important and commit ourselves to it for 365 days of the year. A friend introduced me to the idea of choosing a word for the new year. And a word can come to us from the book of Galatians, for example, which lists the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, long suffering, patience, et cetera.
Choose one of those. And when you are distracted and we live in a world in which there is so much distraction, when you are distracted, always come back to that word. Always come back to the promises of God. Remember who you are in Christ so that you recognize his hand in your life, no matter how hard the road may become. Well, from my heart to yours, I do indeed wish you a very blessed new year, a new year filled with prosperity, but also a new year filled with spiritual growth, where we recognize that in the midst of a world of information, where we are so distracted politically, racially, and in every other way, we might always remember that we are living for another world. So read the book of Galatians, find the fruit of the Spirit, choose a word, and let it be your guiding light as we all step into the unknown.
I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of running to win. And even as we approach this new year, it is with deep gratitude for you for the opportunity of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to so many. Thank you very much, and God bless. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today's question deals with the nature of God. Roger asks us, I don't fully understand the Trinity. When Jesus was on the cross, he said, Father, why have you forsaken me? That shows me some separation between God the Father and Jesus. If Jesus is God, who was he praying to?
Well, Roger, I just can't believe it. You mean you don't understand the Trinity fully? I want you to know that the best human minds have struggled to understand the Trinity. And I can say confidently that there is no human being on planet Earth that fully understands the Trinity. So Roger, you're in very good company.
Couple of things. Yes, there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And when Jesus died on the cross and said, My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? There wasn't an ontological break in the Trinity.
Now, Roger, that's a big word. But what I mean to say is that it's not as if in the essence of the Trinity, there was some kind of a break. But there was a break in fellowship between the Father and the Son, because Jesus became sin for us. And the Father and his fellowship was removed from Jesus.
That much seems to be clear. But we need to grasp the fact that when Jesus prayed, he prayed to the Father. Yes, he was God. But you have also God the Father.
He prayed to the Father. Then you also have in Scripture the deity of the Holy Spirit. And by the way, because of the Trinity, God was able to have fellowship long before the worlds were created. God was fully satisfied with himself and within himself. And yet at the same time, as we think about the Trinity, we need to keep in mind that Jesus made it clear that the three persons are equal. And I think that's why he said in the baptismal formula, go into all the world and preach the gospel and baptize them in the name—singular—in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Roger, that's the best I can do in two or three minutes. Keep thinking about it. And remember, we worship all three.
God in one. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. As the future unfolds, what lies ahead in the plan of God? For believers, does God try to make His will hard to find? The best advice for all of us is this, take one step at a time. On our next Running to Win, more thoughts on the guidance of God as we all face the uncertainties that lie ahead. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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